At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Matt Bailey Wii U Broken Rules Broken Rules 1-5 (Share screen/Gamepad)
Requirements
None.

Chasing Aurora review

This review hasn't had a good history. The original version didn't appear when it should have done due to the significant downtime we experienced this time last year as a result of Hurricane Sandy. This is the newer version that was completed last August, but it too didn't appear when it should have done as it got lost amongst our Gamescom coverage. In light of our imminent preview of Secrets of Raetikon, we present our long overdue review of its predecessor Chasing Aurora.

Nintendo has been famously slow with the adoption of online platforms. When it finally joined the club in 2006 with the Wii - years after Microsoft and Sony had put their consoles online - it did so in a manner which suggested it didn't understand how gamers used the internet. Friend codes were much derided, and the Wii Shop Channel was under promoted, and sadly underused, partly because it took so long before good content started appearing. When it did arrive, gems such as the BIT.TRIP series, HydroVenture and LostWinds were sadly underappreciated. PC indie games such as And Yet It Moves came to the platform to take advantage of the controller, but again faced a lack of promotion compared to Steam.

Chase that gem!

Chase that gem!

However, the And Yet It Moves creators, Broken Rules, have had another shot at a Nintendo platform with Chasing Aurora arriving as part of November 2012's launch line-up for the Wii U eShop. That digital store is a different experience, with a fresh interface, regular discounts, and even a fair few demos. In fact, it's worth giving the demo of Chasing Aurora a go, because it's a game that works best when in motion, and one whose appeal is difficult to explain just in words. It's a game all about soaring and diving and chasing, as differently coloured birds swoop across the landscape in multiplayer battles that are a million miles away from Call of Duty.

This is Broken Rules' introduction to a beautiful new world they have been building, which will also feature in Secrets of Raetikon later this year. The soaring and diving in Chasing Aurora comes from playing as a bird, using the Gamepad's left thumbstick to glide almost effortlessly across the 2D landscape. You can flap your wings with a tap of a button, but this is something you save for the right moment, and flapping too quickly will get you nowhere. It requires calm, sensible strokes. You swoop down and back up again in a very satisfying motion - the whole set of actions will make you wish you could just take to the skies whenever you like. While you could sit back, relax and enjoy flying, you would be missing out on the real content, a multiplayer-focused set of games designed for up to five players to enjoy together in the same living room.

Some of the levels have impressive environmental events you have to watch out for

Some of the levels have impressive environmental events you have to watch out for

Despite being a digital game, Chasing Aurora is a purely offline experience. If you want to get the most out of it, you're going to need at least one other person to be sitting alongside you, and preferably another three too. This setup is actually a fairly typical experience for Wii U games. There is a single player mode where you chase checkpoints in a loop across the various environments to keep yourself alive and rack up a higher score, but even here there are (sadly) no online leaderboards.

Multiplayer is the focus and there are three different approaches to competition. One mode is Freeze Tag, where a single player is tasked with freezing all the other players before the timer runs out, although the other players can also unfreeze each other. That's if they choose to as there is a points benefit to being the last surviving unfrozen player at the end of the round. The twist here is that the player chosen to freeze their opponents uses the Wii U Gamepad, and so they get a unique view of the action, separate to the one on the TV. This works especially well for Hide & Seek, where the Gamepad player's bird will be carrying a gem that the other birds on the TV will be trying to find. The gem is weighted so that the player holding it can't dash off so quickly, but it can be dropped into a sneaky hiding place. Lastly there's Chase, which is similar, except that anyone can take hold of the gem, and when the other players are off-screen they lose a life - in this mode the Gamepad is a mirror of the TV.

They are simple, effective games that, when played in groups of four or five, can become a lot of fun, as the tension builds for an escaping bird, and nplayers shout at each other to get unfrozen in Freeze Tag. While Nintendo Land is the main showcase for the Wii U to a family audience, I found that it was nicely complemented by Chasing Aurora and that I've been able to engage people who don't often play games. The sensation of flying has immediate appeal, and the rules are simple enough that a one line explanation will generally do.

It is a gorgeous game, and the follow up is looking even better

It is a gorgeous game, and the follow up is looking even better

As mentioned at the top, this review is a lot later than intended. That delay from initial release gives a different perspective on Chasing Aurora from when it first launched. For a start, it's now about half the price it used to be - £5.99 compared to £10.79 - such that it's now at a level which makes it more appealing to casual players. A significant patch back in March last year also overcame some of the issues I had actually called out in a much earlier version of this review, such as the lack of Wii U Pro controller support (a surprisingly common problem amongst early Wii U games), and that update also significantly improved the scoring which makes it much fairer when playing a mutli-mode tournament where roles and the Gamepad are switched often. It's also a more viable game for two players now; in Hide & Seek there is now an AI bird that will actually help find the gem and bring it to you, while in Freeze Tag you can use the ability to set the Gem on fire (already a useful tactic for fending off foes) to end end the round immediately by getting it to touch the Freeze Bird.

It's a better game for all the changes that Broken Rules have made, and that makes it even easier to recommend Chasing Aurora to all Wii U owners looking for an interesting new multiplayer experience, especially for such a low entry price. There's not enough to singleplayer to justify a purchase for those only wanting to play solo, but if you can get three or four friends or family members to join in, then there's a large selection of environments to keep you all entertained as you soar through skies.

Ratings

Overall The sensation of flying has rarely been captured so well as it is in Chasing Aurora. The solo experience lacks depth and online leaderboards, but there's a fantastic multiplayer game for up to five people that makes an interesting use of the Wii U's GamePad. 8/10

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